Ever since leaving my hometown of Nassau, Bahamas to go to college in the US, I have tried to maintain having my dreadlocks. My parents and I have argued many times about the need for me to cut it, for the obvious reasons black parents wouldn’t want their son out in the world with dreadlocks. And of course I’ve fought to keep them and to ignore the warnings of future discrimination because of that decision.
The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has captured the attention of the world, including the Bahamas. Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in cities around the world to decry systemic racism and injustice and to demand redress.
While Bahamians are horrified at what happened to Mr. Floyd, many are thankful that they do not face discrimination in their own country. But is this really the case? “Ain’t we all black in the Bahamas?” many Bahamians might ask. While Bahamians might not face discrimination as overtly as African-Americans do at the hands of whites, make no mistake about it: discrimination still exists. Ask yourselves: Why, after 47 years of independence, is the Bahamian economy largely controlled by ‘conchie joes’? Why are the most successful black Bahamian businessmen of today relegated to the ‘numbers’ business?
Today, we continue to tell our young people that their future lies in the tourism industry, an industry that is vulnerable to sudden shocks (Covid 19 pandemic, anyone?). We tell them to learn how to smile and be nice to tourists. We might even tell a select few to go abroad and study with those people who they will serve as tourists one day.
Our current economic model is like walking on a treadmill – lots of movement, but we are going nowhere. Young black Bahamians will continue to be second class citizens in their own country unless the leaders pave new paths for them. We need to jettison the old ideas of the 1950s economic model and embrace the cutting-edge ideas of the 21st century so that more Bahamians can claim ownership of the economy. We need to wean ourselves off tourism and embrace technology as a way of earning foreign capital. In the 21st century, technology is the best way to level the economic playing field.
Of course, this all begins with education. We must educate our young people about the possibilities that exists beyond tourism. We must educate our young people to the endless possibilities that technology provides. We must upgrade our education system to meet the demands of the 21st century world. It’s only then that the majority of Bahamians will stop being second class citizens in their own land.